This post is part of a series of our preparations for travelling with our 3 kids through Europe. You can find the rest of the posts here.
We’ve been to Europe twice before. Once in Summertime before we married and once in the winter of 2009/2010 with Hannah when she was 14/15months old. Before that trip when Hannah was a toddler, I researched as much as I could to find ways to entertain her on the flight. I was SO nervous that she would scream the majority of the time and that we would annoy the other passengers. It turns out Hannah is an ideal travelling child, and that hasn’t changed even as she’s grown up. This time she is obviously old enough to comprehend what is happening and what we’re about to experience. Plus she remembers a few of our domestic airline trips and is a road-trip child from way back.
It was very different travelling with only one child to look after and worry about. We even had my parents and brother and sister on that trip, so we had many pairs of hands. This time it’s just Brian and I and our 3 children on a flight that takes 29 hours, so we’re outnumbered and in unfamiliar territory. Since we can be pretty sure that Hannah will be mostly comfortable with this new experience, we are hoping that Blake will follow her example and find it enjoyable.
Blake often struggles with transitions so we are aware of that and we are talking about the trip and different aspects of it every day in order to develop some security around all the new experiences for him. We hope that his overall excitement about the trip will help him move into feeling more comfortable more easily, but we’re also remaining understanding that this could do the opposite and actually create more overwhelm. We’ve also watched quite a few YouTube videos about the flight process and role-played the security checks etc in an effort to make that all as familiar as possible. No matter what, we’ll be right alongside him, to support him with whatever he needs.
Daisy is a typical 21 month old toddler. She wants to explore everything and enjoy her new found freedom and independence. Her personality is not in the least bit shy or withdrawn so we are wondering how that will balance out with the restrictions of flying, staying in unfamiliar accommodation and driving for long distances. Even though I am bringing a few toys and activities for her to play with, I know they won’t hold Daisy’s interest for long. She is a people-person and a true explorer, she rarely plays with toys even at home! I know I’m going to have to use all of my mummy-tricks to help her stay seated for that 20 minute take-off and landing every time! I’m thinking yummy snacks will be the winner here!
So after all that crazy analysing of what may or may not happen, we did prepare for the flight as much as we possibly can.
Checked-in luggage – Each of the kids have a small wheeled suitcase of their own clothes (it felt easier for me to pack it this way) that will be checked in. Brian and I are sharing a large suitcase with our clothes plus we have another suitcase filled with booster seats for Hannah and Blake for the hire car, a soft booster seat for Daisy to use instead of a highchair, Turkish towels for our beach stay, nappies and wipes and a few other bits and pieces.
On-board luggage – Hannah and Blake each have their own backpack to take on board filled with a change of clothes, an individually chosen toy/play item, two small books, headphones, their camera, colouring/sticker books, their journal and their pillow. I bought Daisy a tiny back pack as well, but it will probably just have one toy and book in there so that I can easily pack it away if she gets annoyed with or bored of it. I have an overnight style bag to take on board which will carry a change of clothes for Daisy and a t-shirt for me just in case of spills, nappies and wipes, headphones for Daisy as I know she will want them since Hannah and Blake have some, a pashmina in case it gets chilly on the plane, medications, water-bottles and snacks, and all the extra toys/books/activities for the flight and airport entertainment. Brian is bringing all the electronics in a backpack that we will use as our day pack when we arrive at our destinations.
I’ve really tried to pack light – as much as I possibly can for 5 people – because I know if we need anything we can always buy it there. However, we are going in Spring/very early Summer time so the temperatures can be unpredictable. We need jackets and jeans as well as swimmers and shorts. So I’ve tried to cover for almost a week of all-weather situations and pack as light as possible. I have also though carefully about what activities/toys to take. I hope I’ve hit just the right amount to hold each of the different age interests plus packing things that can be versatile enough to use in the car (we’ll be doing a lot of driving) and at our destinations too.
I’m sure we’ll pick up a few more toys along the way as is always the case on holidays, so I didn’t want to start out with too much because of that. The airports that we’ll be in transit in for the longest times – Singapore on the way over and Hong Kong on the way back, for 6 and 8 hours respectively – seem to have a huge variety of activities to entertain the family with so I hope this really will help to endure the long waits with relative ease (I know they seem like long waits and they are, but the price we paid for our flights is worth it!).
- Headphones – because I doubt the little earphones the plane gives out will fit the children’s ears and I want them to be able to hear their movies/games. Hannah and Blake’s each have pens to customise the sides with their own artwork which adds another activity – bonus!
- Journal – I really want to try to make time to write/draw in this every day on the trip to help them keep these memories for their lifetime. I will be bringing my journal too of-course, and a special holiday one, so I thought it might be a nice activity for Hannah, Blake and I to do together.
- Colouring/Sticker books – There is one each for each child and these will be used in the car while we’re driving between countries as well. Daisy is at an age where colouring doesn’t really interest her of-course, but she can just scribble on the paper to her hearts content while she emulates her siblings. She is however, at a great age for beginning to grasp the skill of stickering so we’re hoping this will hold her interest for some time. Hannah is very much into colouring at the moment so I’m pretty sure she’ll have her nose in her book for most of the flight and airport time.
- Oragami paper – This is for Hannah, Blake and Daddy to work on while Daisy and I nap ;).
- Small Dollhouse dolls – This was an idea I borrowed from another blog somewhere in travel-blog-land, and I think this will be a hit, promoting imaginative play.
- Finger puppets – These were rarely played with at home but I could see their value in a small confined space so instead of donating them when we culled most of the toys, I saved them in our holiday box.
- Deck of cards x2 – I think if your kids are able to play Snap or are even just learning it, cards are a great way to extend that game and also help the kids learn new ones like Go Fish.
- A magnetic Ludo game travel set – I bought this from a stationary store would you believe? They had them at the counter for $5.
- Books – A necessity.
- Magnadoodles – These were something I was really wanting to find in this compact size as they fit so well in the bag. I bought one for each child from the $2 store, and they had to open and use them as soon as they saw them – even Daisy – so I think these will be a favourite on the plane and in the car.
- Balloons and a balloon cover – for the airport.
- Inflatable swords – I saw these at the $2 shop and thought they would be great for the airport to help Blake get energy out. He loves pretending to be a knight or a pirate and I know he will miss his swords that we have to leave at home. I bought 2 so Brian and Blake can continue their duels!
That sounds like a lot written in a list like that, but it really all fits easily into my bag and theirs, and there is 3 children to amuse after all. I know that Hannah and Blake will enjoy the airplane games and entertainment -and we will have our iPad – but I want to be reaching for these activities first. Of-course, I’m packing some non-perishable snacks along too and hopefully all of this preparation means a smoother flight for all of us. I guess we’ll find out in just a few days!